Analysis

One year on, there appears to be little to show for US President Donald J. Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan. The administration needs to implement this strategy in a way that creates an opportunity to end the war in Afghanistan while advancing core US interests of defeating terrorism and demonstrating that a moderate Islamic state, aligned with the international community, can succeed.

The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center convened policymakers, analysts, and diplomats to assess the gaps in and imminent challenges facing the US strategy in Afghanistan. In a resulting report, “A Review of President Trump’s South Asia Strategy: The Way Ahead, One Year In,” these experts provide some important recommendations to the administration. Here’s a look at those recommendations.
Even as another turbulent year draws to a close in Afghanistan, 2019 could end up becoming a pivotal one for a nation caught between geopolitical power projections, evolving peace and political pressures, and contrasting visions for the future—unless there is a concerted effort to agree on an inclusive, practical, and timebound political process that includes a peace plan.

Islamabad seeks yet another IMF bailout

Pakistan, faced with a mounting debt in part due to a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project with China, has turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet another bailout. The IMF, however, has made clear that a loan would be contingent on Pakistan being completely transparent about its debts to China; the United States—one of the largest stakeholders in the IMF—has said that Pakistan must not use the loan to repay China.

The $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a series of extravagant infrastructure projects intended to increase regional connectivity. CPEC is part of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Previous Pakistani administrations overestimated the role of largescale infrastructure projects as drivers of economic growth and underestimated the costs. While CPEC has the potential to bring much-needed economic development to Pakistan, its price tag threatens to plunge the country further toward fiscal instability.
Afghans will vote in parliamentary elections on October 20 amid the familiar threat of violence.

The fragile security situation in Afghanistan was underscored on October 18 when Gen. Austin Miller, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, escaped unharmed in an attack by a Taliban gunman in Kandahar. Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq, Kandahar’s police commander, and Abdul Momin, the provincial intelligence chief, were killed in the attack. The Afghan government has postponed the vote in Kandahar province by a week.

In the rest of Afghanistan, voters will head to the polls on October 20 to elect candidates to the lower house of parliament. The election is three years overdue. Around 2,500 candidates are standing for 250 seats.
US troops have now been present in Afghanistan for the past seventeen years. Initially, the US-led offensive that came in response to al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, was mainly an air campaign, supported by indigenous anti-Taliban forces on the ground. This approach proved highly effective. Al Qaeda and Taliban command-and-control centers across Afghanistan were dismantled within days. Most of their commanders were forced to flee to safe havens in Pakistan.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation on October 9 caught many, including some within US President Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet, by surprise. She will leave the post at the end of the year.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and the daughter of Indian immigrants, at times struck an independent position from Trump, but was also a prominent supporter of the president.
Over the past five years, the Maldives steadily transitioned from democratic to authoritarian rule under President Abdulla Yameen. Despite all odds, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) achieved a stunning electoral victory on September 23 that provides the Indian Ocean nation with an opportunity to reverse the erosion of rights and freedoms that occurred during Yameen’s tenure. The new government must now secure the loyalty of its institutions, including political factions within the MDP and the military, to ensure a peaceful and stable transition of power from Yameen to President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his new ruling coalition in November.  

Challenge posed by ISIS affiliate must be addressed

The message from Washington these days appears to be that severing the link between the Taliban and Pakistan is the silver bullet for peace in Afghanistan. It is, however, simplistic to portray the Taliban as the only insurgent group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only relevant outside actor. While the Taliban might be the insurgent group with the most sympathizers and members, there are other groups active in Afghanistan that may not be influenced by Pakistan. An enduring peace in Afghanistan is only possible if it involves a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and addresses the challenge posed by these other insurgent groups.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad as his Afghan envoy, tasked with mediating between the Taliban and Kabul, might help bring Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and at least some factions of the Taliban together. Khalilzad has walked a fine line between Afghanistan’s many ethnic groups in the past. He helped effectively form the country’s first post-Taliban government and organized the country’s first post-Taliban elections.

US-Palestinian relationship is ‘broken,’ says former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad


The decision by US President Donald J. Trump’s administration to close the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is a symptom of a “completely dysfunctional and broken relationship” between the United States and the Palestinians, says Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority who is currently a distinguished statesman at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

The Trump administration’s decision was announced in a statement from the State Department as well as in remarks by senior administration officials on September 10.


    

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